Author's personal remarks not found in the book
This is a story of quiet farewells, dreams, resistance and escape. This story is
an authentic autobiography. This book is dedicated to all those, who like myself,
suffered under the communist dictatorship. My story describes the life of a
young Berlin boy, who like so many others, had to live out his youth under the
constant watchful eye of a terrorizing state. As a boy I lived in a city filled
with contradictions- divided but open, between two worlds and two systems.
As a boy I did not truly understand these contradictions, I just knew that life
on both sides of the wall was completely different. My transition from a
confused, pensive boy to a dissident is the journey found in this book -nothing
else. I have no desire to point fingers, to make myself a hero or to blame
anyone- my words are my story. I only want people to think about what they've
Why write a book? The reasons are simple - we forget too quickly. The victims of
that time are often ridiculed and undermined. There is little appreciation of
dissidents especially from some former GDR citizens who don't like being
confronted with the truth. They don't want to see the reflection of the past in
I also want to dedicate the book to all the mothers and fathers who suffered so
much because their daughters and sons couldn't and wouldn't live within this
A special dedication goes out to my mother, who by her courageous efforts showed
that it is still possible and necessary to demonstrate civil courage in a
totalitarian state. I was spared a long and grueling imprisonment because of her
strength and determination. Despite her health problems my mother never gave up
fighting for me. Angrily and with spite, my mother went to fight the hopeless
battle against the powerful people at the top. Today I still sit back with
amazement and admiration when I think of the fight my mother put up. A simple
woman, who because of her dedication unintentionally became a hero. I thought
about my father during every second of writing this book. Only now at the age of
almost 60, do I realize what he must have gone through. I miss his love and
Opposition, a privilege of the youth, was not favorably seen back then. Those
who resisted were brought down by any means possible. At first, certain
political cadres tried to retune the voices of opposition but when this didn't
work the communist leaders did everything in their power to quell the opposition.
Dissidents were publicly vilified and classified as enemies of socialism. Many
dissidents could not withstand the pressure and submitted to the socialist
leaders and system. But there were also those who did not want to give in and my
story shows that there were many who were willing to risk everything, absolutely
everything, to break free from these chains. The story also illustrates how
those who did not agree with: the regime, the political rhetoric, the
indoctrination, the spying families and neighbors, were unable to live out their
dreams like they can today. For the others who unquestioningly followed and
accepted the party lines and even lived according to the state system laid down
by the soviets, this system was a revelation. Spying and the humiliation of
others found its support amongst the masses.
I had to live in this state, which was not a home for me, for twenty-nine years.
There are too many horrible memories that I relate to this period and these
memories still follow me. In hindsight, my biggest problem was not with the
ruling powers that I had to put up with, but much rather the environment which
in I had to live. Neighbors, colleagues and 'friends' couldn't understand my
resistance against this regime. They thought I was crazy because they themselves
had no problems with the pressure. My resistance made them uncomfortable.
I was forced to take a stand because my constant questioning of and resistance
to the system was dangerous. So many others simply unquestioningly handed over
their children to state organized institutions and tolerated that their children
were foddered with an intolerant ideology which did not leave room for any other
forms of thinking or living. Because I did not let my daughter join the
socialist youth movement group the "Young Pioneers", I was deemed an unfit
father and was threatened with the removal of my custody rights. With great
efforts I was able to avoid this from happening by emphasizing that this would
go against the very rights this socialist state always promoted. Only a few
people truly vied to go against the state and the lack of civil courage is what
enabled such as state to exist for so long. When my family and I were given
permission to leave the GDR in 1975, the regime stated:
"Mr. Richter and his wife are hereby granted permission to emigrate,
according to the decision made by the district counselor and the ministry of the
interior on August 13th, 1975. Effective immediately all family members'
citizenship has been revoked. Mr. Richter, along with his wife, have a deep
seeded negative political attitude towards our socialist system. As a result,
they have not participated in any elections and have continuously violated our
laws. Mr. Richter has also been charged with passport fraud and illegally
helping others escape. In order to hinder any further negative influence he may
exert on family and acquaintances in the GDR, an entry ban has been issued."
This ban was effective until 1989. As you can read between the lines, it seems I
must have really stepped on some toes! My persistence worked.
Today, no one can say to me: "What could we have done?" But turning a blind eye
is also a form of participation.
It pains me when I hear people say: "It wasn't so bad in the GDR."
Didn't people say that after the war, too? "The Third Reich wasn't so bad. Adolf
built us a highway."